You are currently viewing Portraits from the Hornbill Festival Nagaland

Also known as ‘The Land of Tribes‘, Nagaland has developed a striking yet mysterious image in our minds. There are about 66 Naga tribes and sub-tribes in Nagaland, its neighboring states, and Myanmar (formerly Burma). The diversity found in this region is particularly staggering due to the large number of tribes that inhabit the state. The spirit of Nagaland largely lies in its people and heritage.

The Hornbill Festival is held during the first 10 days of December at the ‘Kisama Heritage Village’ near Kohima in Nagaland. It’s a great place to have a glimpse of the different tribes of Nagaland and experience their culture. This 10-day long annual festival includes folk dances, songs performed by the warrior tribes of the state, pop artists’ performances, and more. The festival displays the local heritage, culture, handicrafts, and food, with the aim to promote the Naga heritage and culture. The zeal and enthusiasm that you’ll find here, I doubt you will notice elsewhere.

The serene and welcoming demeanor of the tribes at the festival is contrasted by their reputation for head-hunting (the practice of which is now abolished). Almost all the tribes are famous for their rigid code of conduct and tribal traditions. The tribes of Nagaland take great pride in their identity. The way they dress, carry themselves, and even their traditional dance screams of a distinctive style, which most of us, unfortunately, are unaware of.

The Nagas specifically are regarded for portraying their lineage through their attire. The Naga men wear beautiful headgear. Each tribe has a distinct attire that helps distinguish one from the other, and also the gear and clothing they wear indicate the person’s social status. Some of the names of the tribes that I could recall from my interactions are Ao, Angami, Chakhesang, Chang, Kachari, Lotha, Konyak, Kuki, Phom, Rengma, Sangtam, Sumi, and Zeliang.

The tribals who come together at the festival to showcase their heritage, culture, and traditions come from various walks of life and go back to being the students, teachers, artists, professionals etc, i.e. leading their normal lives at the end of the festival. This festival for them, is an opportunity to showcase their culture and heritage to the world, and they take great pride in being part of it.

Festivals are always a great place to capture portraits, the Hornbill festival is undoubtedly the place to be if one would like to photograph the Naga tribes dressed in their traditional attire with rich hues, unique headgear, and splendid jewelry.

I am sharing here some of the portraits of these wonderful people I captured. All pics were taken in natural light on a Nikon D850, Nikor 50mm & Nikor 28-300mm.

This Post Has 12 Comments

  1. Pradeep

    Wonderful environmental portraits captured.

  2. Madhu

    Aesthetically captured pics!! Brilliant work!

  3. Gopinath

    Beautiful pictures.

  4. Sheila Jadhav

    Fascinating features of the folks of NAGALAND.
    Very distinctive, unique, colorful n steeped in vibrance .
    Good Ajay Salanky.
    Appreciate the presentation of your concept

  5. Hema Narayanan

    Exceptional portraits! Your 50mm and the photographer in you have framed the Naga people profoundly – their characteristics so evident. Nicely written ?. Post often.

    Interesting how I can recollect meeting some of them myself 🙂

    1. Ajay Salanky

      Thank you Hema. I will definitely put in a renewed effort to write more often.

      I can relate to that feeling of being there on seeing these pics, I have seen some of the same people in others pics and was taken back in time to my own visit.

  6. Chinmaya

    Undoubtedly must experience this festival at least once in a life which is brought LIVE next to actual experience through brilliant shooting and use of lenses. Being witness to all these clicks, would like to add that equal or more effort was invested by my dear friend in capturing and bringing out emotions in addition to photography skills……

    1. Ajay Salanky

      It surely was a memorable experience Chinmay, thanks to you and Anil both non-photographers for bearing with me every time I paused to plan, compose and take a shot, also the endless conversations I had with them before and during the process of making these pics, you both had nothing to do but didn’t stop me from doing what I was doing 🙂

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